He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Hearing Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel, it’s hard to imagine going through life and never having received an invitation, not just to a dinner party but to be closer to our Creator. Whether it’s to a birthday party, school dance, a sleepover, or a wedding, getting invited to something makes us feel wanted and important.
In my lifetime, I’ve been invited to all sorts of things from dinner parties to sporting events into people’s lives and on more than one occasion, I’ve even been invited to give my opinion. Invitations not only reach out to us, but each one requires from us a response. Often, a simple yes or no will suffice.
There are all sorts of invitations out there. An old friend of ours specializes in making unique handmade invitations for the very rich. Her artistry has announced some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrity weddings and events.
For the not so famous and formal, there’s Evite – a company that specializes in sending out online invitations. We happen to have received on of those a few weeks ago and now three times a day I am getting junk mail from them. (I need more celebrity friends.)
Of course, there are invitations that are even less formal. They are the simple gestures we make, like a wave of the hand or a quiet look that someone might give you.
While walking Cali the other day, my neighbor’s dog Watson was barking up a storm. Some might see this behavior as a warning to intruders. But his body language told a different story. Pressing his front paws against the glass, Watson jumped up and down, wagging his tail with excitement. This wasn’t a warning but an invitation to play.
I imagine God is much more like Watson than us. Jumping up and down with excitement while awaiting our reply to come and celebrate the joys and blessings of life. Judging by the stories Jesus tells, I’m going to take creative liberty and say the Kingdom of God is like one great party. I mean think about how many times Jesus’ parables end in some kind of soirée.
A woman finds her lost coin and calls her neighbors to celebrate. The Prodigal Son returns home and they throw such a fantastic party that it causes envy and jealousy. A man invites his friends to dinner, and when they don’t show up, he goes out onto the streets and gathers whoever is nearby to come get their party on!
According to John’s gospel, Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding where the best wine was served after the people were already well lit. The kingdom of God is one great party. And Jesus is inviting you to attend.
This takes us to today’s reading. Luke doesn’t tell us who is sitting at the man’s table. Most likely it’s his friends and family – the people he’d want to show off his important guest to as well as those who could also reciprocate in kind.
Not much has changed has it? When we throw a party we want to gather with people we know and who are like us. After 50 years, my parents stopped having their annual New Years Day party because they realized nearly all the people who came never invited them to do anything.
My folks didn’t need to have the favor returned, but as my mom put it, “It sure would be nice to be invited to do something once in a while.” After all, we want to feel wanted and important to others.
There’s nothing wrong with opening your home to friends and family. But Jesus knows there are some people who never get invited to dinners or parties. They’re the one’s he wants us to remember and be hospitable to.
Jesus tells his host “Next time you gather like this make sure the guest list includes those who could never pay you back.” Today, that would include the single mom on welfare and her children, a young man with autism and his exhausted caretaker, and the down and out whose eyes you often avoid or whose phone calls you no longer return.
Jesus’ message, like his ministry, focuses our eyes and adjusts our heart to celebrate self-giving instead of calculating what we can get in return.
Why is this important?
Invitations do more than simply gather us together. They give us purpose. They invite us to move out of self toward God and toward others; provoking us to listen to and learn, and eventually growing in the way we love and serve God and one another. Jesus is all about building relationships.
A few years back, Kathleen and I accepted an invitation to a dinner party at the home of a woman who I had only met a couple of times. The only thing the guest had in common was the fact that we accepted this crazy invitation to what we aptly called “the forced friendship club.” As we passed the potato salad and grilled chicken, amazing things began to happen. Laughter. Joy. Smiles. Fellowship at its simplest and yet most profound.
We were different, yet one, sharing the Spirit of grace and love with fellow strangers. At this table relationships were formed and God’s kingdom blossomed, all because one woman intentionally invited a group of strangers into her home to partake in a great feast in the presence of God.
So, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say the Kingdom of God is a great party. And Jesus is our hostwho invites us to bring our hearts, our music, our children, our gifts, and all that we have to celebrate with high spirits and laughter.
He wants his joy to be our joy, his peace to be our peace, his love to be ours as well. He wants us not only to come receive it, but to share it…because like the Kingdom of God, this party never ends.
Jesus is an invitation, engraved with his own breath and blood, that calls us to sit at the table of grace. He invites us to bring our troubles and woes to him for redemption and forgiveness. His is an invitation that is pretty much impossible to ever repay. That’s the beautiful part. We don’t have to repay it – we just get to pay it forward. But like all invitations, we can choose to accept or reject him.
By accepting Christ, we begin to move into a deeper, more meaningful and purpose driven relationship with God and with others.
This is where our hearts are transformed and the wounds of our world are healed. Jesus is inviting us to partake in the Kingdom of God…the greatest party ever thrown.
Through Christ, God invites us to celebrate the radical story of grace and redemption; to dance in the joy of love and peace; and to be filled with the bread and wine of eternal life.
You may not believe you are good enough or faithful enough to receive an invitation like this … muchless accept it. But the way I see it, God has never made a person that Christ did not die for.
Jesus said the kingdom of God is here. That means you are in the party now! So, enjoy yourself. Have fun. Meet people. Eat, drink and be merry, or Tom or Jerry or simply your best self. For you are cordially invited to live and thrive with Christ throughout the ages. And I hope to see you there.
Let us pray:
Lord God, you sent your Son to deliver this invitation to the world. Open our hearts today to say yes! Yes, to your grace, yes to your forgiveness, yes to your steadfast love. And with our yeses…send us out into the world today to share this good news and empower us to invite others to see your glory in all that we say and do. Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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